LSU Gymnastics Uniforms through the Ages

Elizabeth Nguyen, Ashley White, Tyrone Scott, Talisha Parker

gymnastics leotard
Figure 1: LSU Gymnastics Leotard

The LSU Tigers gymnastics team is known for being the best at what they do, but they owe part of their success to uniforms they wear.  The gymnasts wear leotards to perform in a variety of events, including the vault, beam, floor, and bars.  Leotards date back to the eighteenth century.  The first leotards were skin-tight and covered most of the body.  As the demand for leotards grew, the garment was made to cover only the torso, leaving the legs exposed.  In Figure 1, Ashleigh Gnat sports a purple, skin-tight leotard.  Her leotard offers flexibility and allows her to move freely.  Leotards today provide gymnasts the ability to breathe and move about, so they can successfully execute their routines.

Gymnastics began at LSU as an intramural sport for men in the early ‘60s.  The group became an official team in 1968.  During this year, many athletes protested against the racial discrimination in America during the Summer Olympic Games.  As seen in Figure 2, the men’s team wore shirts with U.S.A. and an American flag printed across the chest instead of purple and gold clad uniforms.  The men wanted to express their solidarity and support.  Without the protest, the team would not have become as diverse and talented as it was.

men's gymnastics 1978
Figure 2: LSU Men’s Gymnastics in 1978

The first LSU uniforms consisted of white leotards, white suspenders, and gold tank tops.  To prevent their shirts from rolling up during the routine, men wore leotards instead of shirts.  Elastic waistbands were not invented yet, so men had to use suspenders to keep their leotards up.  In 1973, the uniforms changed to a purple tank top with the LSU logo printed across the chest.  In 1979, the team updated their leotards to ones with elastic waistbands, as seen in Figure 3.  Suspenders were no longer needed.

 

The LSU Tigers women’s gymnastics team began as an intramural sport in the early 1970s, and the team became official university team in 1975.  Their first uniform was a simple white leotard with a purple sequin trim around the neckline.  Sequins were an essential part of the Golden Girls uniforms, so it can be assumed that the first uniform was inspired by their design.  From 1977 to 1978, the team wore dark purple leotards with gold trims, as seen in Figure 4.

elastic waistbands
Figure 3: Elastic Waistbands in 1978

D.D. Breaux, an experienced gymnast, became the women’s coach in 1978.  Coach D.D. was on her way to the Olympics when a knee injury brought her performance career to an end.  She decided to focus her energy and knowledge on coaching, turning them into great athletes and well-rounded individuals.

women's uniforms 1978
Figure 4: Women’s Uniforms in 1978

In the 1980s, the men’s and women’s teams wore simple, solid-colored leotards.  These uniforms were similar to those seen in previous years.  The teams wore purple and gold to bear the colors of the university.  They wanted to represent LSU and show their

floral uniforms 1983
Figure 5: Floral Uniform in 1983

patriotism.  Stripes were worn from 1980 to 1982.

 

From 1983 to 1985, the LSU leotards started to incorporate more artistic designs.  The floral design in figure 5 was inspired by a design worn by gymnast Amy Koopman, who performed at the United States Gymnastics Federation during the same year.

1984 came with the discontinuation of the men’s gymnastics team.  It is uncertain why the team ended.  The 1980s came to a close as simple designs returned.  Purple and gold leotards were worn, and the LSU insignia was embedded to showcase school pride and representation.

From 1988 to 1996, the team saw an increase in creativity.  The tiger print, sequins, glitter vinyl, and other eye catching materials were introduced into the leotard styles.  The ‘90s concluded with a return to simple designs.  School spirit can be seen through the use of the LSU insignia and body art.  In Figure 6, an LSU gymnast wore a temporary tattoo in the shape of a tiger to showcase her school pride.

insigna and body art 1999
Figure 6: Insignia and Body Art

The design of the leotards slightly changed in the twenty-first century.  More patterns, colors, and styles were incorporated.  The conservative look was over.  Gymnasts were finally allowed to wear long-sleeved, half-sleeved, or sleeveless leotards during competitions.  They were no longer penalized for exposure of the skin.

From 2000 to 2003, the LSU leotards still remained modest and simple, but gymnasts began to wear glitter and paint on their face, as seen below in Figure 7.

paint and glitter
Figure 7: Paint and Glitter

The gymnasts wore paint and glitter to express their school spirit and pride.

The most dramatic shift in leotards for gymnasts came about in 2004.  Leotards became a huge component not only to the gymnast, but also

women's uniforms 2006
Figure 8: Women’s Uniform in 2006

for their performance.  The competition grew to be all about the shine and eye-catching uniforms to grab the judges’ attention.  Figure 8 shows a clear representation of how gymnasts wear their leotards in 2006 and still today.  Besides the flashy uniforms appealing to the audience and judges, the leotards gave the gymnast a boost of confidence.  In 2008, the addition of wearing a ribbon in a ponytail was also coined to complete the look of the fancy leotards, which can be seen in Figure 9.

women's uniforms 2008
Figure 9: Women’s Uniform in 2008

Since 2010, the LSU Tigers gymnastics team has proven their success.  The team is still coached by D-D Breaux, and it competes in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.  LSU placed second at the 2016 NCAA Championship and first at the 2017 Southeastern Conference.  While the dedicated gymnasts are known for being the best team on campus today, their uniforms play a significant role in how they perform.

In a personal interview, third-year gymnast McKenna Kelley shared her opinion on the team uniforms.  The uniforms are designed mainly by the team director and volunteer assistant coach, but senior gymnasts offer their inputs too.  The designs are sent to Alpha Factor, a gymnastics apparel brand based in Pennsylvania.  A variety of leotards are made; the gymnasts wear a different leotard to each meet.  Kelley shares that the uniforms allow her to move freely, but they also unify her team.  Kelley said, “Being out there matching creates a physical bond as well as an attraction to the crowd. It makes us look unified and put together, and it helps us stand out when we’re down on the floor with other teams.”

Like trends in regular fashion, the style of leotards has evolved.  First, the cut looks dramatically different.  In Figure 10, fourth-year gymnast Erin Macadaeg wears a high-cut leotard.  The leg line is higher, creating an illusion that Macadaeg has long legs.  This is beneficial because LSU gymnasts are the shortest among other athletes.  Secondly, the stretchy fabric they now wear is stronger and more long-lasting.  Not only do the leotards offer more elasticity, but they also show off the gymnast’s fit body.  If the gymnasts has abs, the abs will show.  Lastly, the use of beads and crystals increased.  The details contribute the gymnast’s confidence, and how she feels impacts how she competes.

present day uniforms
Figure 10: Present day uniforms (2017)

Though their outfits rarely deviated from the same general shape, the LSU gymnastics team has a shown a great amount of creativity and school spirit over the years with their ability to do so much with so little.  With the team’s outfits seeing at least some kind of change almost every year, one can assume they will always bring something more than the same old purple and gold to the table.  It will either make you even gladder you became a tiger or make you wish you were one.

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Magee, Caroline. “The Daily Reveille.” The Daily Reveille, LSU Now, 7 Jan. 2017, http://www.lsunow.com/daily/lsu-gymnastics-vs-georgia/collection_112b56a4-d4fc-11e6-92d0-6b8c3dbcef39.html#10.

Meyers, Dvora. “The Complete Evolution of the Gymnastics Leotard from the 1930s to Today.” ELLE, Hearst Communications, Inc., 27 June 2016, http://www.elle.com/fashion/a37371/evolution-of-gymnastics-leotard/.

Nguyen, Elizabeth, and McKenna Kelley. “Personal Interview with McKenna Kelley.” 29 Nov. 2017.